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Jacob Marley was dead -- that much was certain -- and Ebemezer Scrooge needed a new partner. Bob Cratchit was the obvious choice; but though Cratchit was the firm's accountant, Scrooge had doubts the man could follow suit, much less count 12 tricks at a tough slam.

"Bob, my boy," Scrooge said, displaying today's deal as a test, "how do you set about making six spades?"

Cratchit lifted his green-tinted visor and studied the deal carefully, as if he knew his family's livelihood rode on his reply. (Before you read on, choose your play.)

"I take the ace of diamonds," Cratchit said nervously, "and lead the deuce of hearts."

"Bah! Humbug!" bellowed Scrooge. "Losing a needless trick!"

"I ruff the diamond return," Cratchit persisted, "lead a trump to the ace and ruff a heart. I can then draw trumps with the K-Q and take the A-K and two more hearts, throwing my low clubs."

"Well done, partner," Scrooge clapped him on the back. "You found the winning play."

You hold: K 7 6 5 4 2 3 8 A 7 5 3 2. Your partner opens one no trump, and the next player passes. What do you say?

A: Bid four spades. Partner promises at least two cards in spades and surely has help for the clubs. Hence you'll have a fine chance for 10 tricks. Don't make the beginner's error of responding two spades; your partner would (or should, at least) pass, treating that bid as a sign-off with a much weaker hand.

North dealer

North-South vulnerable
A Q 8
A K 9 8 7 2
Q 6
J 10 3
5 4
J 9 7 5 4 2
8 4
Q J 10 6
K 10 6 3
K J 10 9
K 7 6 5 4 2
A 7 5 3 2
North East South West1 Pass 1 Pass3 NT Pass 4 Pass5 Pass 6 All Pass

Opening lead -- 5

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